Middle School: How I Survived Bullies, Broccoli, and Snake Hill
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Middle School: How I Survived Bullies, Broccoli, and Snake Hill, is the fourth book in the series following Middle School: The First Years of My Life, Middle School: Get Me Out of Here!, and Middle School: My Brother Is a Big, Fat Liar. Although there's an underlying anti-bullying message, there's also a lot of gross humor, and protagonist Rafe isn't as interesting a character as in the first two books. He does help his bunkmates, but the book is missing the interesting underlying conflicts that drive him. Still, tweens will find this a good quick read with lots of great illustrations.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
Rafe arrives at Camp Wannamorra and discovers it's a summer school/summer camp with lessons every morning! He also finds out he's in the "loser cabin," The Muskrats. The Bobcats, the "cool cabin," have labeled him and the other Muskrats "Dead Meat" and take every opportunity to bully them with words or mean pranks. Led by their leader, Doolin, the Bobcats are the worst kind of bullies. Their sole mission at camp is to make life miserable for the Muskrats. Adult characters for the most part are not helpful and portrayed as stupid. Major Sherwood, the camp director, considers the bullying harmless razzing and all part of camp fun. Rafe unites his bunkmates and gains some short-lived relief from the Bobcats. Although Rafe ends up being kicked out of camp (no spoiler here, Rafe tells us himself in the first few pages), he does so to help his friend Norman.
Is it any good?
This fourth book, which sees Rafe continuing his daily battles with bullies, is the least interesting of Patterson's Middle School series, with a less cohesive plot and characters. That said, there are some interesting twists. The scary bunkmate Legend turns out to have a kind heart and helps protect the other Muskrats from the bullying Bobcats. Norman, whom Doolin had given the camp nickname "Booger Eater" years ago, reveals to Rafe a bit about his unhappy home life and abusive father. For Norman, coming to Camp Wannamorra is a picnic compared with a summer at home.
Norman's love of reading is his key to survival, and he's able to turn Rafe on to the joy of books. Ultimately, even with its weaknesses, the book's middle school humor and engaging illustrations will appeal to many readers.
Talk to your kids about ...
With the help of bunkmate Norman and some extra time on his hands, Rafe discovers a book (The Invention of Hugo Cabret) that turns him into a reader. Look over this list of Essential Books for Kids and Teens to find a great read.
Like the other books in this series, Middle School: How I Survived Bullies, Broccoli, and Snake Hill explores bullying, sometimes with humor. What can you or your friends do if you are bullied? How can bullying with words be as hurtful as physical bullying? See the Common Sense Media article "Bullying is Everybody's Business."
- Authors: James Patterson, Chris Tebbetts
- Illustrator: Laura Park
- Genre: Humor
- Topics: Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: June 24, 2013
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 310
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback
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